'General Electric-US Challenge' sailed an excellent final heat on Sydney Harbour yesterday afternoon to become the first American winners of the JJ Giltinan 18 foot Skiff International Championship.
Howard Hamlin, Mike Martin and Trevor Baylis on 'General Electric-US Challenge' also became only the second winners from the northern hemisphere since the trophy was awarded in 1938.
Coming into the final heat, 'General Electric-US Challenge' was, along with John Harris's 'Rag & Famish Hotel' and Daniel Phillips's 'Derwent Racing', one of three boats in serious contention for the championship. In fact, the American team had the hardest job of the three, as their points score was such that they would need to have two boats between themselves and their rivals if they were to succeed.
The race was sailed in a south easterly breeze of 12 to 15 knots, with a huge spectator fleet gathered in Taylor Bay for the start, including two of the traditional ferries packed with sailing enthusiasts.
Rob Greenhalgh on 'RMW Marine' got away perfectly at the favoured committee boat end of the line, and held a good lead at the Rose Bay rounding mark after the long beat to windward. Second place at that stage was held by Victor Brellisford on 'White Stuff', with 'Derwent Racing' and 'General Electric-US Challenge' in fairly close attendance, but 'Rag & Famish Hotel' rounded in fourteenth position.
'General Electric-US Challenge' and 'Derwent Racing' battled head to head for second place, before the American team established superiority, but they also dropped a place to Hugh Stodart on 'Express Post', who then held second position right to the end of the race.
With 'Derwent Racing' falling back a little, 'The Rag' recovered sufficiently to become a real threat to 'General Electric-US Challenge', but the Americans' cause was helped by the fact that Michael Coxon on 'Sunday Telegraph' and Tony Hannan on 'Bell Partners' were also charging up through the fleet and staying ahead of 'The Rag'.
'RMW Marine' crossed the line over a minute and a half ahead of 'Express Post', but there was tension in the air as the next four boats approached the line with the championship still at stake.
For one moment, it looked as though 'Bell Partners' was going to take third position from 'General Electric-US Challenge', but the American team just managed to retain the place by one second, and all eyes were then focused on 'Rag & Famish Hotel' to see whether she could finish ahead of 'Sunday Telegraph', which she failed to do by a mere three seconds.
The very popular American team had managed to do what was needed for them to win this coveted championship, by finishing that one vital second ahead of 'Bell Partners'.
Racing is never more exciting than this.
Result of Heat 7:
1. 'RMW Marine' Rob Greenhalgh, GBR
2. 'Express Post' Hugh Stodart, AUS
3. 'General Electric-US Challenge' Howard Hamlin, USA
4. 'Bell Partners' Tony Hannan, AUS
5. 'Sunday Telegraph' Michael Coxon, AUS
6. 'Rag & Famish Hotel' John Harris, AUS
7. 'Terry Hogan Prestige Cars' Graham Turner, AUS
8. 'Newport Arms Hotel' Matt Felton, AUS
9. 'Derwent Racing' Daniel Phillips, AUS
10. 'Omega Smeg' Trevor Barnabas, AUS
Overall Championship, after 7 Heats (1 discard):
1. 'General Electric-US Challenge' 33.7 points
2. 'Rag & Famish Hotel' 35.7 points
3. 'Derwent Racing' 39.4 points
4. 'Newport Arms Hotel' 48.4 points
5. 'Express Post' 59.1 points
6. 'Sunday Telegraph' 70 points
7. 'Great Britain' Tim Robinson, GBR, 77.9 points
8. 'RMW Marine' 80 points
9. 'Omega Smeg' 80.4 points
10. 'd'Albora Marinas' John Winning, AUS, 86 points